Of Pleasure and Sexual Health: Claiming Sex Toys on OUR Terms!

“Although sexual images and information seem to be everywhere these days, a lot of people still don’t know much about sex. There is a persistent myth that you don’t need to seek out sexual knowledge; instead, if you “just do what comes naturally,” sex will be deeply satisfying…for many people, especially women, that belief leads to a lot of frustration…. Learning to reach orgasm is not always easy for women [yet it] is as important for self-sufficiency and emotional intelligence as knowing how to cook a meal or make a friend.” Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide,” Rachel Venning & Claire Cavanah, Founders: Toys in Babeland.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the sexology world celebrates May as International Masturbation Month, thus my next three blogs will discuss additional facets of masturbation. This week, I will write about how to make masturbation even more pleasurable by using sex aids (also known as “sex toys,” a term which to some, suggests a cheapness that undermines their legitimacy in healthy sexuality and may deter some women from using them). Whether you prefer the term “sex aid” to “sex toy” isn’t important—that you consider the benefits of sex toys is!

Many people carry shame around masturbation—I certainly used to. In fact, the first time I attempted to purchase a vibrator I almost couldn’t! After running out of Seattle’s Babeland near tears and downing most of my husband’s Mai Tai (he was at a bar near the store) I returned and bravely purchased a small vibrator and wisely, a book on sexual healing. Babeland offered the perfect experience for a timid newcomer: sex positive, light, bright, open and staffed by women. Less than two years later, I returned to Babeland and spent over $200 on sex toys, and more importantly, confidently asked lots of questions—that in itself was tremendously healing and affirming!

Using sex aids can greatly enhance sexual pleasure and can help women experience orgasm, whether with a partner or during solo-pleasure. In general, a woman’s sexual response cycle is slower than a man’s, and most women need clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. (Sorry guys, penis in vagina sex is wonderful, but for many women, it simply does not provide the kind of stimulation that will allow a woman to experience orgasm….) For a woman whose climax comes slowly, a vibrator can give her the stimulation she needs while saving her (or her partner) from fatigue (or carpal tunnel syndrome!)

Also, as women age, blood flow to the genitals is slower, lubrication takes longer and our vaginas may produce less lubrication; in addition, during and after menopause, experiencing orgasm can take even more time and the strength of orgasms can diminish as a result of hormone decline. For the woman who wants to continue experiencing orgasm, a vibrator can be a godsend, providing the necessary stimulation for the duration she needs—and vibrators can also help a woman retain and even regain the strength of her orgasms!

For women who are not having penetrative sex with a partner, the addition of a dildo is important. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, when vaginal muscles and tissues are not regularly stimulated through penetrative sex, they can atrophy, with tissues becoming thin, dry and painful and muscles tightening to the point of not allowing any penetration! Using a dildo twice a week with a good lubricant (such as Eugene’s own Good Clean Love) will enable vaginal tissues and muscles to retain their strength and vitality.

If you’ve never used a vibrator or dildo before, think about it for both your pleasure and your sexual health! If it’s a matter of feeling embarrassed or ashamed at the thought, remember, you are an adult now and you get to re-examine old messaging, assess what is true for you today, and to reject old messages that no longer serve you. It is empowering and sex positive to reclaim control over your sexual expression and using sex aids can be a wonderful way to reinvigorate your sexual self, whether alone or with a partner!

Next week: So you want to buy a vibrator or dildo but don’t know where to start…